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Columbus bans police use of tear gas, limits pepper spray

By FARNOUSH AMIRI Report for America/Associated Press
The city of Columbus on Tuesday prohibited police use of tear gas and limited use of pepper spray to clear streets and disperse peaceful demonstrators following weeks of global protests over the death of George Floyd.
Mayor Andrew Ginther issued the directive while announcing that an advisory panel is being formed to maintain oversight and create transparency into police operations.
The change comes as police departments across the country grapple with criticism of tactics used against people protesting the May 25 death of Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Social media videos showed Columbus police use tear gas and pepper spray on hundreds of demonstrators and even a congresswoman in the past few weeks.
“This new policy will stop unnecessary confrontations between police officers and peaceful” protesters, Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein said in a news release.
The police department will be briefed on what the new policy means, and additional changes might be made, Ginther said in a news release.
Columbus was among a number of Ohio cities where residents took to the streets after Floyd’s death. The weeks of civil unrest and peaceful protests across America have again brought up the contentious topic of police reform and oversight.
Ginther hopes the city’s Chief Advisory Panel will spark changes including a civilian review board and independent investigations into police-involved shootings.
“This is not just a commission or committee that will sit idly by,” Ginther said.
Also Tuesday, Columbus State Community College announced it will be dismantling the statue of Christopher Columbus that has been displayed on its downtown campus since 1988.
There has long been debate across the nation over the explorer’s legacy, with some calling him a symbol of the conquest and subjugation of indigenous people.
“In taking this action, we are being mindful of societal change and forward movement,” Columbus State Board of Trustees President Anthony Joseph said. “We do not seek to erase history, but to make an intentional shift in what we visibly honor and celebrate as an institution.”
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Farnoush Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.